Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Michigan Wolverines have options at quarterback in Outback Bowl


The bloomin' irony of this Outback Bowl is drenched in maize, blue and mystery: The most glaring quarterback conundrum in this game exists on the sideline opposite South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.

As sure as the ball drops in Times Square, Spurrier will use both Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson in Tuesday's game. What remains shrouded in cryptic quotes and vague clues is what will unfold when the Michigan Wolverines break their initial huddle.

Specifically, what's the deal with Denard Robinson? And is his right elbow, injured in late October, functional enough for forward passing?

"He can do about anything," coach Brady Hoke said.

That's about as extensive as Hoke will get regarding his plans behind center. Offensive coordinator Al Borges isn't much more forthcoming.

"He's going to have a variety of roles, that's all I'm going to say," Borges said.

Maybe Robinson, a Deerfield Beach native and the greatest running quarterback in Wolverines history, adds a garnish to his glowing college career by starting his final game.

Or junior Devin Gardner, highly efficient as Robinson's replacement the past four contests, remains the primary signal-caller while Robinson lines up at tailback, receiver, wildcat quarterback and return specialist.

Or a combination of both.

"Our defensive coaches feel like we've got to be prepared for both of 'em," Spurrier said.

"Sometimes you never know who's coming out and who's going to be behind the center," said Robinson, who has been throwing in practice lately but hasn't thrown in a game in two months. "So that's always fun to hear and fun to do."

With no one talking at length about the immediate future, one must revert to recent history to speculate on what could transpire Tuesday.

A rangy QB-turned-receiver-turned-QB, the 6-foot-4 Gardner was summoned after Robinson sustained nerve damage to his throwing elbow — and sophomore Russell Bellomy flopped in relief — in a two-TD loss at Nebraska on Oct. 27.

In the ensuing four contests (three wins), he has completed 63 percent of his passes (57-for-90) for 1,005 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. A sack-infested loss at Ohio State notwithstanding, he also has brandished some mobility.

"You know, the more you play the better you understand, and he's just got a better feel, a little more body learning," Borges said. "Less sitting in the meeting and hearing me say it and actually doing it makes a heck of a difference."

But for all of Gardner's progress, Hoke reiterated Saturday that this game is huge for his seniors. And what greater final flourish could Robinson — a lifelong Buccaneers fan — conjure than one last triumphant start at Raymond James Stadium, of all places?

He started at quarterback against Ohio State but didn't attempt a pass. He now insists he can throw well enough to win, and he'll likely be the most dangerous running threat on the field Tuesday.

In two games since returning, he has run for 220 yards. He needs 86 to eclipse former West Virginia star Pat White's NCAA career QB record of 4,480.

"It's another headache for the defense," Gamecocks linebacker Shaq Wilson said.

"When you have a guy as dynamic as Denard with his speed and throwing ability, everything, you can't not have him on the field," Wolverines left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "So he'll be all over the place on Jan. 1."

Does that include quarterback? If so, for how long? Will he give more handoffs than he gets?

"We'll see," Borges said.

Michigan Wolverines have options at quarterback in Outback Bowl 12/30/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays lineup vs Orioles



  2. Alex Faedo, Florida advance to face LSU in College World Series finals


    OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Faedo pitched three-hit ball for 71/3 innings in a second straight strong performance against TCU, and Florida moved to the College World Series finals with a 3-0 win Saturday night.

    Florida’s Austin Langworthy scores on a single by Mike Rivera in the second inning during a 3-0 victory over TCU.
  3. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Rays journal: Jumbo Diaz falters after getting within a strike of ending rally

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game got away starting with a leadoff walk in the seventh inning by Rays LHP Jose Alvarado, who was brought in exclusively to face Baltimore's lefty-swinging Seth Smith.

    Rays reliever Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Orioles score four during the seventh inning to give them a 7-3 lead. Diaz was one strike away from working out of the jam before he allowed a two-run double and a two-run homer on back-to-back pitches.
  5. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.